The suspects who authorities believe stole 483 Celtic gold coins from the Kelten Römer Museum in Manching, Germany, last November have been arrested in Bavaria, according to a report from the Art Newspaper.
When they were discovered in Manching in 1999, the coins were considered the most substantial discovery of Celtic gold made during the 20th century. While the material value of the coins amounts to around €250,000 (around $278,000), the coins are an irreplaceable cultural treasure, according to the Bavarian minister of art, Markus Blume.
The four men suspected in the heist were northern Germany and found after a search of 28 home, businesses, vehicles, and a boathouse, according to the Bavarian police. According to the Art Newspaper, one of the suspects was found in possession of a plastic bag filled with “lumps of gold” that match the composition of the stolen Celtic coins, suggesting some of the coins had already been melted down.
“Seventy of these coins have been irreparably lost,” Blume told the Art Newspaper. “There is still hope of finding the rest.”
Through DNA evidence, investigators have linked three of the four men to a string of robberies that date back to 2014, in both Germany and Austria, that include supermarkets, a casino, and gas stations. Authorities said it possible that their crimes go back as far as the 1990s.
Joachim Herrmann, the Bavarian interior minister described them as “professional burglars,” and a prosecutor attached to the case, Nicolas Kaczynski, noted that one of the suspects worked as a telecommunications engineer. In several of their alleged robberies, fiberoptic cables had been cut to disable alarm systems and delay police response.
Police are still investigating locations around the northern German city of Schwerin, using metal detectors to search for the remaining gold, which they believe may have been buried.